Aleppo and Its Majestic Citadel: Chilling Reports from the Current Civil War, and 14th Century Narratives by Ibn Batutta

I. THE HARSH REALITIES OF ALEPPO TODAY

(A). Syria’s Most War-Torn City by Newsweek Magazine

(Note: Newsweek’s story, accessible by clicking on the first image shown below, contain graphic images and may disturb some readers. Discretion is advised).

“Longer even than the journey from Damascus to Aleppo is the time it takes to get from one end of Aleppo to the other. Moving from the east to the western side of the city once took only a short bus ride. Now it involves navigating a labyrinth of side roads and as many as 20 checkpoints; an endurance test that can last between 10 and 16 hours” — James Harkin for Newsweek, August 19, 2015. Please click on Newsweek – Syria’s War Torn City or click on image below for Harkin’s full report.

A sergeant in Lewa Salaheddin, a Kurdish battalion of the Free Syrian Army, sits in front of a block of destroyed buildings in Aleppo, Syria on December 6, 2012. It’s more than three years since the fight for Aleppo began. By late 2012, parts of the city were already in ruins. Patrick Tombola/laif/Redux

A sergeant in Lewa Salaheddin, a Kurdish battalion of the Free Syrian Army, sits in front of a block of destroyed buildings in Aleppo, Syria on December 6, 2012. It’s more than three years since the fight for Aleppo began. By late 2012, parts of the city were already in ruins. Patrick Tombola/laif/Redux

_______________

(B). A Resident’s Account of Aleppo’s Humanitarian Crisis and the Fear for its Historic Citadel

Editor’s note: The following excerpts are from the website of the Centre for Research and Globalization based in Montreal. For a full account published on July 25, 2015, please click on Global Research – Aleppo’s Humanitarian Crisis.

“Aleppo city has shrunk to a fifth of its original site. I walk everyday in the city. I see children and girls without limbs because of a mortar over here or shrapnel over there that hit them randomly and caused them a terrible wounds and horrific memories that will never leave them. The girl who lost one leg is standing on her good leg and selling bread, while the little boy who lost one arm is selling chewing gum. Those are the “injured” people who come in the news, just numbers in one line of a report, after each attack from the terrorists. “Injured” doesn’t mean scratched or having a bleeding finger; it means someone lost his eyes or her limbs.”

continued…

Aleppo and its castle from South West. Created/Published between 1898 and 1946. Photo: USA Library of Congress Collection, Gift Episcopal Home; 1978.

Aleppo and its castle from South West. Photo taken in 1898, and created/published
between 1898 and 1946. Photo: USA Library of Congress Collection, Washington, D.C.

“The last symbol left of Aleppo, is the most famous one: the Citadel. I can see part of it from our balcony, but I can see it more clearly from the roof of the building….It has been badly injured, but it’s still there, dominating the city skyline. It’s where they found the Storm God’s Temple a few years ago. It withstood many invaders, including the Mongols and Crusaders. It has been damaged severely several times through history, but it has been rebuilt over and over again, as an immortal symbol to the inhabitants of one of the oldest living cities in history. I just pray I don’t live to witness its total destruction as I have seen happen to many of the surrounding buildings.”

________________

II. IBN BATUTTA’S 14TH CENTURY DESCRIPTION OF ALEPPO AND ITS CITADEL

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work has taken place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Photo and caption: Wikipedia.

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work has taken place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Photo and caption: Wikipedia.

An Introduction to Ibn Batutta

“No intelligent man,” wrote Ibn Djuzayy, the scribe to whom Ibn Batutta (also Batutah etc) dictated his memoirs, “can fail to see that this sheikh is the traveller of the age.” But Ibn Batutah (1304-1368 or 1377) was not only the greatest Arab traveller of the Middle Ages, he was one of the greatest travellers of all time. At the age of twenty-one, he set out from his birthplace, Tangiers (Morocco), and started his travels by undertaking the pilgrimage to Mecca. This was the start of thirty years of wandering during which he would travel almost 120,000 kilometres that would take him halfway round the world as far as China. His account of his travels (the Rihla), in addition to its literary value, gives a panoramic picture of the 14th-century world.

If there are historical inaccuracies in Ibn Battuta’s writings, they are largely attributable to the pronounced taste for the bizarre which was characteristic of the age, and to the loss of his notebooks during a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean.

But errors or exaggerations do not detract from the value of Ibn Battuta’s narrative which is written in a direct, straightforward style punctuated by observations which are not without humour. His entertaining story has been translated, wholly or in part, into some 15 languages and ranks among the masterpieces of Arabic literature.

Ibn Batutta on Aleppo and Its Citadel

From Sermin we proceeded to Haleb (Aleppo), a large city and splendid metropolis. This is how Abulhossein the son of Jobeir described it:

“This city is of enormous worth and its fame will last forever. Kings have often sought to possess it and men have been impressed by its importance. What a number of battles it has provoked, and what a quantity of shining words have been unsheathed for it! Its fortress is renowned for its power and its height is clearly to be seen. No one dared attack it because of its strength, or if they did they did not conquer it.

“The sides are of freestone and its proportions are full of symmetry. It has outlasted the days and the years and has seen nobles and beggars carried to their last resting-places. Where are the Hamdanite princes and their poets now? They are no more, and only the buildings remain. Oh wonderful city! It endures, but its owners have passed on. They have perished but its hour has not come. It was sought for after them and taken without great difficulty. It was coveted and won at the smallest cost.

Such is this city of Aleppo. How many of its kings has it not changed into a past tense (expression borrowed from grammar) and how many vicissitudes has it not defied because of its position! Its name was made in the feminine gender, it was adorned with the finery of a chaste virgin, it succumbed to the victor as others have done. It shone like a young bride after the sword (seif) of its dynasty, Ibn Hamdan (a reference to Prince Seif eddaoulah).

Alas! its youth will pass, it will be no longer desired, only a short while and it will be destroyed.”

continued….

Aleppo from castle. Photo taken in 1898, created/published between 1898 and 1946. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Aleppo from castle. Photo taken in 1898, created/published between 1898 and 1946. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

The fortress of Aleppo is called Ash shahba (the grey one). Within it there are two wells from which water gushes, and there is no fear of thirst there. The castle is surrounded by two walls, there is a great moat from which water rises, and its wall has many towers standing close together. This fortress encloses marvellous chambers pierced with windows. All the towers are occupied and in this fortified castle food is not impaired by the passage of time.

There is a sanctuary which is visited by many people, and it is said that Abraham prayed there to God. This fortress resembles the one called Rahbet (square of) Malik Ibn Thaouk, near the Euphrates, between Syria and Iraq. When the Tartar tyrant Kazan marched against the city of Aleppo, he besieged this fortress for many days. Then, frustrated in his desire to take it, he withdrew. Ibn Jozay says: Alkhalidy, the poet of Seif eddaoulah, writes as follows about this fortress:

“With its high belfry and invincible flanks, it is a vast, grim place which rises up against him who would take it.

“The atmosphere spreads a layer of cloud over this place and adorns the castle with a necklace of brilliant stars.

“When lightning flashes in the night this fortress appears through its interstices, shining like the constellation of the Virgo through the openings in the clouds.

“How many armies has this castle not destroyed and how many conquerors has it not put to flight!”

The same poet also speaks of the castle in the following admirable verses:

“It is a citadel whose base embraces the springs of water, and its summit is higher  than Orion’s Belt.

“It knows no rain, because for it the clouds are a ground,  whose sides are trodden by its cattle.

“When the cloud has given water in abundance, he who lives in the fortress uses all the water in his tanks before its summits are moistened.

“Its belvedere would be counted amongst the stars of the heavens if it passed through their orbits.

“The cunning of this fortress has repulsed the tricks of its enemies and the evils it caused were greater than theirs.”

Here is what Jemal eddin Ali, the son of Abulmansur, has to say about this castle:

“Because of its enormous height and the point which its summit attains, this castle nearly stops the celestial sphere that turns around the earth.

“Its inhabitants have gone to the Milky Way as to a watering place and their horses have nibbled the stars as though grazing on flowering plants.

“The vicissitudes of time turn from it in fear, and for this castle there is no change.”

Date posted: August 22, 2015.

____________________

Editor’s note: The above introduction to Ibn Batutta and his narratives on Aleppo and its Citadel have been adapted from the January 1986 issue of The Unesco Courier which was dedicated to Treasures of World Literature. Please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco-courier/.

We welcome your feedback. Please click on Leave a comment.

___________________

FORTHCOMING PHOTO AND LITERARY PIECES ON SIMERGPHOTOS AND SIMERG

  • “Prayer Halls of Badakhshan Through the Lens of Muslim Harji,” to be published week of August 24th, 2015 on Simerg’s photo blog, http://www.simergphotos.com
  • “Naklanki Geeta – Quantum Mechanics in Ginans” by Shiraz Pradhan, to be published week of September 7th, 2015 on this website, http://www.simerg.com.

Coming Soon: Priceless Memories of Badakhshan Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Simerg's Merchant

By Abdulmalik Merchant

Muslim Harji, a regular contributor to this website and its sister blog, Simergphotos, says that his recent visit to Central Asia with his wife Nevin was the best trip of his life, surpassing the jouney he had made to Iran some time ago. His visit to Badakhshan, in particular, has resulted in a perfect blend of  photos which capture the region’s extraordinary landscapes as well as the wonderful spirit of the Ismailis, who have inhabited the Pamirs for centuries.

Upon arriving at the village of Rushan, we were greeted by children singing the

Upon arriving at the village of Rushan, we were greeted by children singing the “Khushamudin song” — a welcome song. We were then escorted into the home of the Ismaili village elder. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

The inspiring life moments that Muslim and Nevin experienced in Badakhshan will be treasured by them for their entire lives, because the “priceless memories will never come again.”

While we prepare Harji’s Badakhshan photo essay for publication later this week, we invite you to review Through the Lens of Muslim Harji, a page specifically dedicated to Muslim. It gives the links to his pieces published on Simerg/Simergphotos.

Muslim has established himself as a powerful photographer. The hundreds of complimentary letters that readers have submitted in response to his photo essays as well as the many thousands who have visited Simerg to view his photographs bear a true testimony to Harji’s extraordinary talents with his lens.

We look forward to continuing the remarkable friendship that we have forged with Muslim Harji, and thank him for his support.

____________

Update June 13, 2015: Please see Muslim Harji’s piece via The Ismailis of Badakhshan Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

Leaders and Communities Extend Condolences to His Highness the Aga Khan and His Ismaili Followers as Mass Funeral is Held in Karachi for Terror Victims

KARACHI, PAKISTAN - MAY 13: Relatives of injured and killed cry and wait outside a hospital following a gun attack on a bus carrying members of Ismaili Shia community, in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 May 2015 that killed at least 45 people including over a dozen women and injuring more than 14 people. (Photo by Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

KARACHI, PAKISTAN – MAY 13: Relatives of injured and killed cry and wait outside a hospital following a gun attack on a bus carrying members of Ismaili Shia community, in Karachi, Pakistan, 13 May 2015 that killed at least 45 people including over a dozen women and injuring more than 14 people. (Photo by Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A genuine outpouring of sympathy has been extended to His Highness the Aga Khan and his followers after the gun attack on a bus in Karachi on May 13, 2015 in which 43 Ismailis were killed at point black range. Two more people died later in a hospital from injuries they suffered. An Associated Press report published in both the Washington Post and The Miami Herald (Karachi Mass Funeral) states that Pakistan was observing a day of national mourning, and state-run television was broadcasting live footage, showing mourners attending the last rituals for the victims of Wednesday’s assault. Forty-three of the victims were laid to rest in a mass funeral on Thursday, one was buried earlier, and another body remains to be identified. The following is a selection of messages of sympathy that have been publicly released by numerous leaders and governments around the world.

~~~~~

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada

Prime Minister Stephen and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen and His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada.

“Canada condemns the cowardly terrorist attack on a bus carrying Shi’a Ismaili Muslims in Karachi.

“It is particularly chilling that gunmen opened fire indiscriminately, murdering many Ismailis regardless of their gender or age. It is an affront to everyone who cherishes religious freedom. We urge the Government of Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to justice and to ensure that all religious minorities in the country are protected and their religious freedom guaranteed.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in this murderous attack. We also offer our heartfelt prayers that those injured may have a speedy recovery.

“I have worked closely with His Highness the Aga Khan over the years and know first-hand of the peaceful nature of the Shi’a Ismaili community here in Canada and around the world. We mourn with His Highness and the entire Shi’a Ismaili Imamat who have consistently stood for peace, pluralism and religious freedom.”

________________

Statement by the US Secretary of State

Secretary of State John KerryPress Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC May 14, 2015

“I strongly condemn the heinous May 13 attack on a bus in Karachi, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of members of the Ismaili community.

“The American people stand in solidarity with the people of Pakistan, and with the global Ismaili community on this tragic day. Make no mistake: There is more strength by far in the respect and solidarity that we feel towards one another than there could ever be in any terrorist attack.

“I extend my personal condolences to the families of the victims, and to my dear, esteemed friend His Highness the Aga Khan, who has led the Ismaili community in investing in so many important development and education projects not only in Pakistan, but around the world. We will support efforts to bring all those responsible to justice and stand ready to provide assistance to the investigation of this tragic attack.”

________________

Statement by Canadian Senator Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer

Senator Mobina Jaffer, left, pictured in Kenya.

Senator Mobina Jaffer, left, pictured in Kenya.

“Honourable Senators, I rise today with a very heavy heart. Very early this morning, I awoke to the news that forty- three innocent Ismaili Muslims who were riding a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, were senselessly gunned down by six armed individuals who were dressed in police uniforms. They were my brothers and sisters in faith.

“Sixty-two people were on the bus on their way to a community centre when the gunmen boarded after cutting off the bus with their motorcycles. Once inside, the gunmen shot indiscriminately at the men, women and children. When the gunmen left, an injured individual drove the bus to a nearby hospital. By the time they arrived at the hospital, most of the passengers had died.

“His Highness the Aga Khan, my spiritual leader, stated: ‘This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those killed and wounded in the attack’.

“Other leaders across Pakistan have expressed their absolute shock at this attack on the Ismaili Muslim community. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, called it ‘‘a deplorable attempt to spread chaos in Pakistan.’’

Honourable senators, the Ismaili Muslim community is one of the most peaceful and charitable communities in Pakistan. They are involved in a number of development projects across the country and work in all segments of society. Their roots in Pakistan are very deep, as they have inhabited that area of the world for hundreds of years. While the community is small, their positive impact on Pakistan is tremendous.

“As an Ismaili Muslim and as a Canadian, my heart breaks for the victims of this attack and for their families. Many of those killed had Canadian family members. I understand that one Canadian has lost his father, mother and brother. I know you join me in sending our condolences to those Canadians. I know this Chamber will join me in condemning this abhorrent attack on innocent individuals in Pakistan.

“As mine are, I know your thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones in Pakistan and Canada.”

Thank you.

___________________

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the
UN Secretary-General

New York, 13 May 2015

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moonThe Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 45 members of the Ismaili community and injuring several others. 

The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to bring to justice the perpetrators of this despicable act.

Taking note that a number of attacks against the Shia and Christian minorities have taken place in the recent past in Pakistan, the Secretary-General urges the Government of Pakistan to take swift measures aimed at effective protection of religious minorities in the country. Creating a climate of tolerance, understanding and respect will greatly contribute to achieving this objective. 

Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, must uphold its obligations and commitments towards protecting its citizens, including all minorities. 

The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Pakistan.  He wishes a speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.

________________

Statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry

Marziyeh AfkhamIran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham, pictured at left, condemned a Wednesday terrorist attack in the Pakistani city of Karachi that killed scores of Shiite Muslims on a bus.

Afkham slammed the atrocity and condoled with the bereaved families of the victims and the Pakistani people and government.

“Extremism and terrorism are against humanity and Islam, and killing innocent people, with any purpose and in any form, is rejected and unjustifiable,” she said.

The objective of such terrorist attacks is to undermine unity in Pakistan, Afkham warned, but expressed confidence that prudence and rapport between the Pakistani government and nation would safeguard stability and security in Irans neighboring country.

________________

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Turkey“We have learned with great sorrow that more than 40 people lost their lives and around 20 others were injured, according to initial reports, as a result of the armed attack perpetrated against a bus carrying members of the Ismaili sect, in Karachi, Pakistan today (13 May) in the morning hours.

“We strongly condemn this terrorist attack. We share the grief of the friendly and brotherly people of Pakistan and express once again our strong feelings of solidarity with the Government of Pakistan.

“We wish God’s mercy on those who lost their lives in this heinous attack, convey our condolences to their families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded.”

_______________

Statement by the European Union Spokesperson

13/05/2015

“The deadly attack on a bus in Karachi today that has killed at least 43 people and wounded more civilians is a further instance of the scourge of sectarian violence.

“The Pakistani government must do its utmost to tackle sectarian violence and bring to justice the perpetrators of these violent and criminal acts. There must also be no impunity for these crimes. The rights of all citizens need to be protected, regardless of religion or belief.

“The European Union expresses its condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”

________________

Statement by the Pakistan Consul General in Chicago

Pakistan Consul General

________________

Statement by US Ambassador to Pakistan

May 13, 2015

us-ambassador-olson“On behalf of the American people, U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson extends his deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of Wednesday’s heinous bus attack in Karachi, and strongly condemns this senseless terrorist act. 

“The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the people of Pakistan in their efforts to counter terrorism, and supports the right of every person to worship as they choose, without fear of intimidation, coercion or violence. We support Pakistan’s efforts to bring all those involved to justice and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance to authorities investigating this tragic attack.”

________________

Statement by US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

WASHINGTON, DC – “I was shocked to learn of the devastating attack that brutally and senselessly murdered 43 innocent Ismailis and wounded many others.  They were attacked because of their religious beliefs by militants who are targeting anyone who doesn’t accept their view of Islam.

“I have a significant and highly respected community of Ismailis within my Congressional District, and I work closely with them.  For years I have participated in the Aga Khan Foundation Partnership Walk in Chicago, a walk that symbolizes the Ismaili community’s work to end global poverty, hunger, illiteracy and poor health around the world.  My district is home to two of their houses of worship called Jamat Khana, one in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago and the other in Glenview, Illinois. 

“My heart goes out to the families of the murdered and injured, and to the community as a whole which is deeply shaken by this act of terror.  I stand strongly with the Ismaili people, a peaceful people, and all those across the world who reject violence and intolerance.  We must join together as a global community to do everything possible to keep these attacks from happening in the future.”

___________‏

Statements from Muslim Organizations in Canada

PLEASE CLICK: Canadian Muslim Organizations Offer Condolences to the Ismaili Community + List of Deceased

Please click on image for Muslim organization statements.

Please click on image for Muslim organization statements.

___________

MEDIA DISPATCHES AND OPINIONS

Iran’s Press-TV reported that people in the Pakistani-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, home to other Shia communities, observed mourning and held ceremonies in commemoration of the victims.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune, a publication affiliated with the International New York Times (formerly the International Herald Tribune) reported that participants at the Ithad-e-Ummah Conference, organised by the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) condemned the massacre of Ismailis in Karachi, and said that the killers have no religion. Among those attending the conference, which was chaired by PUC Chairperson Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, was the Chief Guest, Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s President Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob, the Shia Ulema Council Secretary General Allama Arif Waheedi, International Islamic Study Council President Mian Abu Bakar, Qazi Kifayatullah, and Dr Allama Shabbir Hassam Mesmi.

In an opinion piece for the same paper, Raza Rumi, editor at The Friday Times, who is currently a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in the US wrote:

“The sheer barbarity of the attack on the Ismaili community in Pakistan’s largest and one of the more misgoverned cities shocked the country. It is not the first time that such a sectarian attack has happened. During the past two years, more than a thousand people have been killed in targeted sectarian attacks. However, this was the largest attack on Ismailis. The head of the Ismaili community, Prince Karim Aga Khan, rightly termed the massacre of 43 men and women “a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community”. It is ironic that the Pakistan movement owes its genesis to the contributions of Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III who was the founder, patron and the first president of the All-India Muslim League.”

____________

PEACEFUL REACTIONS IN HUNZA

http://www.Pamirtimes.net reports that the news of the attack created anger among the Ismailis of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, demonstrations that were held in Gilgit, Aliabad (Hunza) and Gulmit (Upper Hunza) were peaceful. The Karakuram Highway was blocked by protesters for several hours today to register protests. Shops and markets remained closed in different parts of Gilgit and Hunza after the carnage in Karachi.

Civil society groups held candle-light vigils in different parts of Gilgit city and Karimabad (Hunza). Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Civil society groups held candle-light vigils in different parts of Gilgit city and Karimabad (Hunza). Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Peaceful protests at a demonstration held in Gulmit village of Upper Hunza against Safoora Chowrangi attack. Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Peaceful protests at a demonstration held in Gulmit village of Upper Hunza against Safoora Chowrangi attack. Photo: Pamirtimes.net

Date posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2015 (20:45)
Date updated: Saturday, May 16, 2015 (09:30), more messages of condolences

We shall continue to post additional material on this page in the days and weeks to come.

Please also visit the latest post Canadian Muslim Organizations Offer Condolences to the Ismaili Community + List of Deceased.

___________

Please visit the following external links:

Also visit http://www.ismailimail.wordpress.com for links to numerous articles and photos on this tragic event.

We invite our readers to record their messages of grief and sympathy by clicking Leave a comment.

Also please see:

“Together-Ensemble”: The Amazing Aga Khan Foundation Exhibition on 18 Wheels – Interview and Photos

BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg

“Development is ultimately about people, about enabling them to participate fully in the process and to make informed choices and decisions on their futures.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam speaking in 2013, excerpt on a panel display at the exhibition.

Stephanie in front of the exhibition bus. Photo: Malik Merchant

Stephanie in front of the exhibition bus. Please watch her interview with Simerg, link at bottom of page. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Launched on April 27th, 2015, at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building by the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Khalil Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the collaborative exhibition of Global Development under the theme “Together” (French “Ensemble”) arrived at the city’s famed Le Breton neighbourhood, located by the new War Museum on Thursday, May 7, 2015 for a 7-day stop over.

I took an opportunity to visit the astonishing bus filled with educational and inspiring exhibits today (Sunday, May 10th), a much cooler day than the previous few days when the temperatures in the city had surged to 30 Celsius, not taking humidex into consideration. While thousands of local Ottawa residents and tourists were enjoying the marvellous and colourful annual tulip festival by Dow’s Lake, hundreds of parents with their children took to the Le Breton grounds to visit the Ottawa International Children’s Festival as well as take a tour of the exhibition in the “Together/Ensemble” bus, just metres away.

Before reaching the Aga Khan Foundation's magnificent Together bus, I was politely confronted by

Before reaching the Aga Khan Foundation’s magnificent Together bus, I was politely confronted by “a past British Monarch” who was measuring my loyalty to her rule. I excelled as a fine citizen, for which she offered to crown me with some kind of an Order named after the Ottawa’s River Parkway, a fine and scenic road running by the Ottawa River one hundred metres behind her! Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Together Exhibition Bus just metres away from  activity tents set up  for the Ottawa International Children's Festival. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Together Exhibition Bus just metres away from activity tents set up for the Ottawa International Children’s Festival. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A youth takes the time to view the interactive global map and test out his knowledge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

A youth takes the time to view the interactive global map and test out his knowledge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

A panel introducing the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and its  founder, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Foundation offices around the world are now agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, a global network created by His Highness the Aga Khan to serve millions on this planet in all areas of human endeavour.  Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A panel introducing the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and its founder, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Foundation offices around the world are now agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, a global network created by His Highness the Aga Khan to serve millions on this planet in all areas of human endeavour. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Children exchange their ideas and thoughts on global matters on these little leaves. They are invited to take away with them any leaf containing the though of another child. When the leaf is cut open at home it contains wild flower seeds that children can plant in their gardens. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Children exchange their ideas and thoughts on global matters on these little leaves. They are invited to take away with them any leaf containing the thought of another child. When the leaf is cut open at home it contains wild flower seeds that children can plant in their gardens. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A young child's aspirations and hopes for a better world:

A young child’s aspirations and hopes for a better world: “No hunger, child labour, everyone being treated equally.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another child, 8 year old Hannah Saikaley, describes her thoughts of helping others:

Another child, 8 year old Hannah Saikaley, describes her thoughts of helping others: “Donating food, money, drinks and clothes and by cleaning the earth.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another informative section of panels inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Another informative section of panels inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The front of the Togther-Ensemble exhibition bus. Over the next 2 years, the bus will be travelling across Canada to highlight perspectives on Global Developments to thousands of Canadians. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. perspectives

The front of the Together-Ensemble exhibition bus. Over the next 2 years, the bus will be travelling across Canada and offer perspectives of Global Development to thousands of Canadians. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The centre panel is the actual width of the bus. The two side panels show the extensions for this bus, giving the exhibition space inside the bus the feel of an actual museum gallery. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

The back of the Together-Ensemble Bus. The centre panel is the actual width of the bus. The two side panels show the collapsible exhibition extensions on the bus, giving the space inside the bus the feel of an actual museum gallery. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Inside the bus, an exhibit. Photo: Malik Merchant/Malik

Voices of Change exhibit inside the bus. Photo: Malik Merchant/Malik

The

The “Together-Ensemble” Exhibition Bus at the Le Breton neighbourhood at the Canadian War Museum grounds. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

A display inside the bus under the theme

A display inside the bus under the theme “Stronger Together.” Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Stephanie, coordinating the media on behalf of the Aga Khan Foundation, was eager to participate in an interview with me, though she felt before the interview that she was a little bit nervous. “Simerg is the first media I am talking to,” she explained. But any apprehension that she felt quickly dissipated as she enthusiastically explained the exhibition with all her charm and grace. Please watch her excellent interview by clicking on the link below.

Date posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015.

_______________

We invite your feedback and comments. Please click Leave a comment.

Please also visit the Aga Khan Foundation Canada Website http://www.akfc.ca for more details and schedules about the Global Development Exhibition, which will be touring Canada in 2015/2016.

This piece has been simultaneously published under a different format at Simerg’s photoblog. Please click Photoessay and Interview: Aga Khan Foundation’s Unique Global Development Exhibition on 18 Wheels

Readers’ Reflections and Prayers for Grief-Stricken Syria

The following is a selection of comments received from readers in response to Simerg’s recent posts concerning Syria, namely:

LETTERS

Ya Ali Madad:

Friend, brother… I have so much pain in my heart, I can not write… my tears are bigger than my chances to talk. [We] are united and together to face the barbarism!

Abd an-Nur al-Gharib

~~~~

Being an Ismaili Muslim, we all have done bayah of the Imam of the Time and this means we are spiritual children of Mawlana Hazar Imam and he is our father and mother, which connects all murids around the world as Ismaili brothers and sisters.

My deep prayers, wishes, dua, bandagi, and concern for my brothers and sisters in Syria. May our beloved Hazar Imam, the Lord of din and duniya, please bestow his protection upon the jamat and guard them with his hands on their shoulders.

Mawla ease their difficulties, make the Syrian jamats prosperous, and bless them with long, healthy lives as well as abundance of peace and love.

Mawla, it is my humble prayer that with your divine grace and power, the murids facing difficulties are protected. Inshallah, these humble supplications will reach you. Ameen.

Amirali Minsariya

~~~~

Difficult times do come in life of an individual or jamat but we must face them with courage and patience. I just want to tell my brothers and sisters in faith dwelling in Salamiyah that you are not alone there; we all are with you and will stand by you and we are ready to help you in any possible way we can.

Rizwan Shariff

~~~~

Our prayer is for your peace! It is terrible to perceive that we are unable to help you physically.

Vasila Bozichaeva

~~~~

Dear Syrian Brothers and Sisters.

I am writing this to you from USA to let you know that our prayers and good wishes are always with you. May Mowlana Hazar Imam grant all Syrian Murids respite from their troubles and bless them with peace and prosperity.

Karim Hasham

~~~~

Ignorant as I am in Arabic, the English version you have given out of this Prayer (Naad-e-Ali) with beautiful Arabic script that sadly I cannot read, but can hear it and share it with our afflicted brethren not just in Syria but also in Bahrain, Iran and more currently with Shia in Sana’a in Yemen. This, the most powerful prayer of Nade Ali in its entirety rings in my ears and jogs my memory of times when I have addressed it to Mowla.

Since our young days our parents taught us lovingly while comforting us. When any of us face tribulations, for Mushkeel Asaan we privately recite it connecting as if on a direct line, a personal phone call to Ali. He is engraved in our hearts; this supplication is embossed deep down in our soul as the SOS, ultimate call out to help us, to our Mowla Ali present our ‘ghat’ closer than our jugular vein. Ginans: ‘Rome rome maaro Shah vase, jem champa phul manhe vaas…avun Janine bhagatai kijiye …’

Enough. Words fail me as I bow down my head in Sujjud with all his created human kind. Thank you for the beautiful gift of ‘Nade Ali’ to us, the victims of atrocities, pain and suffering. Ameen.

Zarinaspeaks

~~~~

It is indeed heart rendering and heart wrenching to see such cruelty taking place in Syria. It is my hope and prayer that sanity prevails and may Almighty Allah give strength and courage to the families who have lost their kith and kin and may their souls rest in eternal peace in the world beyond and they attain Jannathul Firdhouse.

Amyn Chatoor

~~~~

Ya Ali Madad,

I am Jalal from Salamieh, and I am an Ismaili teacher in the National council. From my side, I believe that your prayers with ours can open the sky for the end of this stupid civil war. So far, I really appreciate your interests and deep emotions about the Ismaili brothers and sisters.

Your brother in faith.

Jalal

~~~~

My deepfelt condolences to each and every family who has lost loved ones and intense prayers that Mawla gives you the courage to bear this loss and that Salamiya and indeed Syria returns to peace and tranquility. You are not alone; of that you can be sure! The world Ismailis are with you. You will prevail, inshallah! It must be so terrifying having ISIS at your doorstep! The threat is so very real.

Izat

~~~~

I feel extremely saddened by the torture and brutality that the jamat of Syria is facing. Our sincere prayers for their mushkil asan. May the peace and safety soon return to Syria.

Syria jamat please stay strong to your faith. We stand by you in your difficult times.

Nessa

~~~~

Time and again, in his farmans of recent years, especially during the Golden Jubilee Mowlana Hazar Imam has said to the jamat to say a silent prayer. Calling the names of the imams, or Prophet Mohammed or Ali. Also the most powerful prayer is the Salwat.
The Syrian jamat is going through a lot of difficult times and we pray for peace to be restored for them. Amen.

Ya Ali Tun Reham Kar, Ya Mowla Tun Fazal Kar, Har Bhala Tun Dur Kar, Mushkil ku Asaan, Mowla Ali.

Shirin Hirji

~~~~

Our prayers are with the bravest jamat in the world! May ALLAH protect you from all brutal acts of so-called Muslims. Syria is in our prayers.

Maqsood Ali Khan

~~~~

Thank you for the opportunity to interact. The situation is very dangerous in Salamieh. We are tracked in the city from both the east and the west by the ISIS and al Nusra fronts. The soldiers from Salamieh belong to Government force trying to defend. Note that Salamieh is represented by numerous Muslim tariqahs. We have lived peacefully together for many many years. We have some choices including:

1. The hope that Canadian air forces will also play a role around Salamieh;
2. More military support to Salamieh from the regime; and
3. Possible plane evacuation of women and children from the city in case we can’t defend the city any more.

No doubt, there is support to the community from AKDN, but it is like staying here (and dying?). Yesterday the rebels fired 2 missile at Salamieh and 10 people died, with 30 injured.

The world should move to stop this dangerous situation around Salamieh.

Ya Ali Madad

Ali

~~~~

Dear brothers and sisters:

Every moment holds love if we connect inside. Like the sea’s calm beneath, God’s strength rules if we submit the tides and ripples of pain to Him in total surrender and say Salwaat or His name in jaap continuously. Ali bolo Munivar jan Ali ke charan chint lao ek man. Solace and peace come from knowing that we are always in His sight even though we may not be able to see Him. This pain is necessary to awaken. Just submit all pain to Him aape uthi shah ne besan dije vira, sohi tamara dharam likhaiya (You get up and have Him sit at the driver’s seat of your heart, your religion is only that much. Ask Him continuously your next step, tauba shukhar madad).

Jal tu Jalal tu , Kudrat no karnaar tu , Har bala taad tu, Mushkil asaan kar tu Ya Ali Ya Ali Ya Ali

With love, prayers, light. We are one soul, we suffer with your suffering too. Rest assured that is true.

Naaz

~~~~

Ya Ali Madad,

I am extremely grief stricken to know about my beloved spiritual brothers and sisters along with our little Masoom angles to be the victims of horrendous brutalities of ISIS thugs. May our beloved Mowlana Hazir Imam help the jamat all over to get away with their worldly and spiritual challenges and may GOD bestow them the highest place in Jannah. Let us pray to Mowla to keep all humanity under his gracious custody safe and secure. The humanity is under threat and it is time that we all need to stay united and face them without any fear. They will meet their fate soon and will burn in hell. Their end is near.

Tahira Noor

~~~~

Your message has a very deep and touching impact on the Syrian Jamat. Your continuous support and prayers will definitely make a change hopefully.

With Ya Ali Madad

Mahmoud Syria

~~~~

Dearest Ismaili parents, brothers, sisters and children:

We are deeply sad for the difficult circumstances you are facing. We might be far but our hearts are heavy with grief. We cannot reach you but we are of the same spiritual parent that makes us pray for you more strongly. Inshallah Mowla will help you overcome this very difficult moment in your lives. Allah bless all the departed souls in eternal peace Ameen.

Nade Ali, Nade Ali. Ya Mawla to madat kar, mushkil assan kar, rahem kar.  Shukr Alhamdulillah.

Ya Ali Madad.

Zeenat Salim

~~~~

My prayers for our Syrian brothers and sisters. May Mawla bring peace and security to your homes. May the departed souls rest in peace. Ameen.

Amin Hunzai

~~~~

This is beyond troubling. It is like going back to the time of Genghis Khan who committed the same barbaric acts.

Mallee Stanley

~~~~

We remember you at this time and pray that peace return to you, your great city and great country. We remember you prayed for us when we were expelled from Uganda. We remember you were beloved of Prince Aly Khan and he of you – “Salamiyah ke pyare, himatwale, tumko lakho salaam”, we used to sing. (Beloved of Salamiyah, the brave one, 100 thousand greetings to you.) How he dashed out over the mountains from Beirut to declare to you that the naas had been passed to Karim al Husseini. May peace be upon him who rests in your city and may peace reign over you again. You are not forgotten.

Vali Jamal

~~~~

All I think of is how our beloved Hazar Imam must be feeling. Can you imagine how much this must hurt him? The scariest thing is there doesn’t seem to be an end to this war. In fact, things are just getting worse in so many countries – in Yemen too. Sincere prayers always.

Rashida Rahemtulla

~~~~

I pray to Hazar Imam that whatever sewa that I have done, the benefit of that service should go to my brothers and sisters in Syria. Ameen.

Karim Jivraj

~~~~

You are very right; with complete faith if one recites Nad-e-Ali; and Inshallah success will be positive. This particular piece of writing made my day.

Manji

~~~~

God: Keep and save Syria and defend its good people, culture and its deep history. Ameen, Ameen Ameen. Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad, Ya Ali, defeat its enemies. “There is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Dhu’lfaqar”.

Hatim Mahamid

Date posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015.

____________________

If you missed the earlier posts, please click on the following links:

We invite our readers to offer their solidarity with the Ismaili jamat in Syria and the people of Syria by conveying their heartfelt wishes and prayers by clicking on Leave a comment or in the comment box below. If you encounter any difficulty in submitting your comment, please email your comment for publication to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Syria.” Please note that we never publish your email address with your feedback, and that you may submit your feedback using a pen name or a partial name, if you wish.

A Simerg Brief: “I Absolutely Admire the Aga Khan” — Howard Shearer

Howard Shearer

Howard Shearer

Highly accomplished, Jamaican born Howard Shearer served as a member of McMaster University’s Board of Governors while heading Hitachi Canada Ltd. as its President and CEO. In an interview with the University’s McMaster Times for its 2008 Winter/Spring edition, Mr. Shearer talked about “Leading by a Moral Compass” that readers of this website will find interesting.

When asked, “What living person do you most admire?”, Howard Shearer replied:

His Highness the Aga Khan

His Highness the Aga Khan

“I have to say my mother. She dared us to imagine what is possible. That’s crucial. I absolutely admire the Aga Khan. He established a moral compass in terms of his teaching and his commitment to social responsibility – for contributing to society.”

As for his motto, Shearer explains, “Carpe diem. The opportunity to do something always exists today. I encourage people to make every effort to seize the opportunities that are in front of them and not to wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow will bring its own opportunities.”

To read Mr. Shearer’s inspiring interview, please click: Leading by a moral compass, and scroll to page 16.

Date posted: Monday, March 23, 2015.

____________

Voices of Graduates: The Magnificent Aga Khan University Convocations in Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-es-Salaam

….The guiding rope
That God has cast
We hold fast to it
The pendulum moves

We Appreciate…Read More

PLEASE CLICK: “We Appreciate” – Poem and Voices from the Aga Khan University East Africa Convocations: Graduates and Families Speak About Hopes and Express Gratitude to University’s Founder, His Highness the Aga Khan
Dar-es-Salaam Procession

Unity and Self-Effacement by Prince Aly Khan

“If self-effacement is achieved, the foundation of unity will have been well and truly laid…Be guided by the lives of men like Hasan bin Sabah and Pir Sadar Din.”

Prince Aly Khan in Nagpur,India. The following can be identified (l to r): In Turban and Saafa with medal on his lapel is Late Vazir ValiBhoy Sunderji. The person in front with glasses is Vazir Ibrahim Suleman Haji. Seen behind the mirophone is Late Vazir JaferAli Abji Bhalwani. The person on extreme right of the photograph is Late Alwaez AliBhai Hasham Jiwani  Photo: Samsu Jalali Collection, Atlanta, Georgia.

Prince Aly Khan (13 June 1911 – 12 May 1960)  in Nagpur, India. The following can be identified (l to r): In turban and saafa with medal on his lapel is Late Vazir Valibhoy Sunderji. The person in front with glasses is Vazir Ibrahim Suleman Haji. Seen behind the mcirophone is Late Vazir JaferAli Abji Bhalwani. The person on extreme right of the photograph is Vazir H. Javeri. Photo/Caption: Samsu Jalali Collection, Atlanta, Georgia.

“Unity and self-effacement are the greatest contributions we can make individually to the rest of the community.

“By self-effacement, I mean the forgetting of oneself sometimes and making one’s personal interests subservient to those of the largest number. If self-effacement is achieved, the foundation of unity will have been well and truly laid. For, at present, it is the consciousness of one’s self-importance and dignity which is making people forget their duties and responsibilities, and indulge in petty squabbles and bitter trivialities.

Prince Aly Khan pictured with members of  Lourenço Marques (Maputo after independence) during his visit to Mozambique in 1958. Photo: Jehangir A. Merchant Collection.

Prince Aly Khan pictured with members of Lourenço Marques (Maputo after independence) during his visit to Mozambique in 1958. Photo: Jehangir A. Merchant Collection.

“The welfare of the Ismailis is so near and dear to my heart that I cannot light-heartedly bring myself to overlook the weak points of the community. It is by recognizing our own faults that we can hope to improve. Let us realize that in the matter of helping our brethren we have much to learn from our sister communities, and that if we ever hope to achieve what we have set out to, we must resolutely follow the principles of the faith, be guided by the lives of men like Hasan bin Sabah and Pir Sadar Din and concentrate on the two most important principles of life — namely, Unity and Service of the Imam-e-Zaman and Community.” – Ismaili, India, February 2, 1941.

11 Year Old’s “Incredible Interview” with Star Indian Musician Touches on Mawlana Hazar Imam, FIFA and Music (of course!)

“…it was quite something to perform in front of him [Mawlana Hazar Imam] and be in his presence. It was truly, truly magical. I think it was one of our most prestigious performances” — Salim Merchant

PLEASE CLICK: 11 Year Old Boy Aspiring to Become an Astronaut Interviews India’s Iconic Singer Salim Merchant

Please click on image for interview

Please click on image for interview